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As Grey's Anatomy Future Lies Uncertain, Ellen Pompeo Explains How She Stays Motivated To Keep Playing Meredith

Ellen Pompeo plays Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy.
(Image credit: ABC)

A lot has been made about Ellen Pompeo’s wishes to end Grey’s Anatomy. The actress behind Meredith Grey has dedicated close to two decades of her career to the ABC medical drama, after all. As Grey's Anatomy's future remains unknown amid negotiations, Pompeo delved into what feeds her motivation on the show and how staying engaged has kept her coming back for so many years.

Renewal talks for a possible 19th season of Grey’s Anatomy resumed in December 2021. Ellen Pompeo previously only signed a one-year contract through Season 18, so contract negotiations will be part of those talks. Pompeo recently talked to Debbie Allen, who also stars and executive produces Grey’s Anatomy, on her podcast Tell Me about the show’s impact. Pompeo said that motivation and attention to Grey’s Anatomy is vital, because that’s the effort the show deserves from her.

You have to be super engaged and be paying attention. It’s like the world right now, what I say all the time, if you’re not pissed, you’re not paying attention. It’s the same with the show. I feel like the only way for me to be there this long is to be fully activated on every level, be looking at everything. I can not just sort of stand there and passively, like, ‘Oh say this, this is what I’ll say, and this is my line, and I’ll stay here.’ I have to be activated. All my neurons have to be firing at one time and fully engaged, or I don’t deserve to be there.

So when Ellen Pompeo questions how many stories are left to tell or says the show should end, rather than being exhausted from 18 seasons of being Grey’s Anatomy's star, it’s really that she’s so passionate about the content (or a combination of the two). Pompeo plays a huge part in what goes on on the Grey’s Anatomy set. From pitching plots to the writers to directing episodes, Pompeo knows the effect the show has had on its fans, and you can be sure she’s got her finger on the pulse. 

Her point about not being able to just stand there and say her lines without speaking her mind seems very on brand for the actress who so despised her character having to beg a man to love her that she fought against doing a scene that has become one of the series’ most memorable. Ellen Pompeo recalled filming that scene – Meredith and Derek’s classic “Pick me. Choose me. Love me,” scene from Season 2 – on another episode of her podcast, saying she was “horrified” when she read the script.

Hopefully fans won’t have to wait too long one way or another to find out what the future holds for Meredith Grey and our other favorite doctors. Aren’t we suffering enough waiting for the spring premiere? Grey’s Anatomy’s winter finale ended with a number of lives at stake, including Owen Hunt, who was a passenger in a car that slid down a cliff. 

The Station 19 crew will answer the call when the Seattle shows resume on February 24 for a crossover event. Station 19 kicks off at 8 p.m. ET, and Grey’s Anatomy will follow at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. In the meantime, check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other shows are coming soon. 

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.